Dear : Any guidelines on E-Ink / B&W/grayscale / low-refresh rate app design / UI/UX?

I've recently come into possession of an e-ink book reader, and am discovering the joys (seriously) and limitations (dittos) of e-ink displays and software designed for them.

I've just begun looking for any information concerning design guidance for e-ink devices, and am coming up very short. If you're aware of any such resources please respond to thread.

Boosts welcomed.

@dredmorbius for the greyscale part, it might be worth looking into analysis of the MacOS 7-9 UI. I remember that was high contrast and effective on low-res greyscale displays.

@s0 I can remember working on some large (at the time) Sun workstations running X11 at 19" greyscale circa 1990. Probably at 1024x768 or better resolution (this at a time when PCs didn't even have graphical displays, though VGA was 640x480 -- I first saw that on Windows 3.0 in ~1992/93).

They were pretty crisp, all told.

Though as CRTs, also had high refresh, low artifacting, and emissive displays. Electronic paper lacks those (though the high-refresh-rate video performance is ... sufficient to an enabling level, you can actually watch video or GIFs on it).

The Mac 128K display was 512x342 pixels:

That resolution was retained on the SE, Classic, and Color Classic, though the latter could be switched to a whopping 580x384.

The G3 iMac was boosted to 1024x768. In 1998.


@s0 The first few (non-colour) generations of MacIntosh were notable for making heavy use of line patterns in charts and graphics. Since you couldn't differentiate regions by colour, you had to use patterns.

As here, an 8x6 grid with 42 patterns total.

@dredmorbius this image of Mac OS 8 is colour, but you can see some of the key design features that still apply without colour. Patterns (narrow horizontal or vertical striping) on things that can be dragged to move, inset or outset shadows to indicate clickable/editable elements, with darker & inset meaning active, lower contrast 'greyed out' inaccessible elements

@s0 Right.

That was released in 1997, and ran on a broad range of hardware. I wasn't a Mac owner at the time, though I'd encounter it occasionally through friends or work.

The Quadra, one of the older systems OS 8 ran on, could display 512x384 in "thousands" of colours (presumably at least 2,048, perhaps 16k), 648x480 at 256 to thousands (512KB vs. 1024 KB versions), and up to 1152x870 at 16 or 256 colours.

The 20th anniversary Mac (1997) ran 800x600 or 640x480 up to 16 bits (65k), PowerMac G3 up to 1024x768 (ATI Rage 128 GL 16 MB).

In other words: limited resolution, colour (though limited), and high refresh.

I'm looking at devices with:

  • Up to 1650x220 pixels / 300 DPI (13.3"), Smaller 10.3" (1872x1404 227 DPI), 7.8" (1872x1404 300 DPI), and 6" (1448x1072 300 DPI) devices / displays exist.
  • 16 level greyscale (some colour devices exist).
  • Refresh of up to about 8Hz, though typically about 2 Hz
  • Minimal power draw so long as image does not refresh.
  • Sunlight/daylight readable. (Best readability is actually under direct sunlight.) Backlight / frontlight is typically available.

Some of the contrast/pattern guidance may fit, though unless you can map that to specific attributes of source materials (e.g., applications, websites, colour-to-pattern map), ... you may end up with issues.

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